I moved to Los Angeles almost three years ago and now that I am out of the honeymoon stage / terrified for my life stage / what the f**k was I thinking stage I am able to gather my thoughts and give you the best tips for how to prepare yourself to move to Los Angeles or any city outside of your comfort zone.
When I graduated from college I knew that I was moving to Los Angeles. Why? Cause I had an acting degree. For me my only options were New York or Los Angeles. I had only been to New York once and I knew immediately that it was not a place I would soon call home. So, I packed my bags and headed for sunny California. I moved with two suitcases, four boxes, my car, and exactly $1,200 to my name.
Looking back – I was an idiot. A lucky idiot. A fortunate idiot. A blessed idiot. But an idiot all the same.
Why? Because I had NO idea what I was doing. I knew nothing about LA. I had visited twice before but both of those trips were no longer than two weeks. Just long enough for me to think “well…it’s more expensive than Missouri but I still love it” but not long enough for me to realize that I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Since my move I have built a new life for myself. I have climbed out of the trenches, figured out the lay of the land, gathered my family away family, settled into my cute little apartment, and really started propelling forward with my new life. However, all too often I see many people attempt to make the move to Los Angeles only to find themselves moving back home just a few months later.
I truly believe this is because there is a lack of resources that give you a real look into what it is like to move to this city. I can think of one article that I have read that truly felt helpful when I was planning my move and even then it didn’t go too in depth about each of the topics that were covered. So I will do my best to do that for you.
1. Do not expect to move out and have your own apartment right away. Stay with family or friends for the first couple of months if you can. This is VERY important.
I was lucky enough to move in with my mom’s cousins when I first moved out to California. Granted, I was an hour outside of LA in Redondo Beach but with only $1,200 to my name the pressure of having to find an apartment right away was not something I had to deal with. For this I am extremely grateful. Reach out to your friends or family that live in the area. Give yourself a couple months to get settled, figure out the area, find a job and start to breathe. We all know that moving = lots of money spent. Don’t blow all your savings on a security deposit and first months rent your first week here. That will leave you drowning in stress. This is what you want to avoid.
2. If you do not know anyone who lives in the area check out staying in an AirBnB or look into becoming a House Sitter through sites like Mind My House and House Sitters America.
AirBnB will offer you lower rates than a hotel would and often times you can find a good deal on monthly rates. This shouldn’t be your first option but it can be a nice, comfortable transition, giving you a month in a safe space to get grounded and get ready to apartment hunt. If you want to save money and don’t mind hopping around from place to place you can sign up to become a house sitter. This is a great way to give yourself a place to stay but it’s risky, especially if you can’t find a house sitting job right away or can’t find one after another house sitting gig ends.
3. Find a job ASAP.
Seriously. Finding a job is more important than finding a home. Why? Because no one will accept your apartment application if you are unemployed. It’s too risky for them. Even if you show them that you can afford the next few months of rent they’re going to give the apartment to someone with job security. That’s just the way it is. Get on the job hunt asap. There are several different ways to do this. Join job boards on Facebook, look on Craigslist, reach out to friends, submit your resume, etc. Once you get a job, get acquainted with the job for a few weeks and then you can begin your apartment hunt.
4. Make sure you have a car that is dependable.
Public transportation is awful in Los Angeles. You need a dependable car. Period. The end. Employers need to know that you can get yourself to work. You need a car to get everywhere in LA. “But there’s Lyft so I don’t have to worry about it right away.” Lyft is cheap when you use it once a week because you want to be responsible and drink with your friends. Lyft is not cheap when you use it four times a day to get yourself to job interviews.
5. The dreaded apartment hunt.
Honestly, you guys. Apartment hunting in Los Angeles is the W-O-R-S-T. This is something you have to accept. Do not hold on to apartments tightly. They will be gone before you have the chance to ask the landlord if utilities are included. There are THOUSANDS of people always apartment hunting in LA. Accept it.
Before you start your search have these documents / funds ready to go:
-Proof of Employment
-Most recent tax return
-Two recent bank statements showing your account balance
-Two recent pay stubs
-Letter of Reference from previous landlord (very rarely do they ask for this but I do know people who have had to get them)
-Money ready to go for the security deposit + first and last months rent
-Application fee (and sometimes a fee is added on top of that to do a credit check on you)
Most apartment complexes require you (or you and your roommate if you’re not living on your own) to make three times the amount of rent. Be ready for that. Be aware that apartments go FAST in LA. If you see an apartment and you like it, tell them you are ready to sign the lease. Do not question it. If you have your documents in order, you know you can afford it, and you think you will be happy just say you are ready to go. If you leave the apartment and ask for time to think about it know that 25 other people have just put in their application and that apartment is no longer available. Think I’m joking? Let me explain how fast the process went for the apartment that I am in now:
I saw the ad for the apartment 5 MINUTES after it went live on RadPad. I called the girl showing the apartment and said I could come look at it right then. She said come over. While I was looking at the apartment she got 15 other calls about people who didn’t even want to see it, they just wanted to fill out the application. She hung up with the last caller and without thinking or talking to my husband (I think I called him after I had already filled out the application) I said I’d like to fill out the application right there. I filled it out. The next day we went in and signed the lease and two days later we moved in. That’s just how the apartment game works out here. You gotta be fast and you gotta accept that you may not win the first time and you may not even win the 10th time. Just remember to breathe.
6. Once you’ve settled in to your apartment and you have your job take a day to get lost in the city.
This was the best advice I got from my father when I moved to Los Angeles. He told me that once I settled down and got comfortable I needed to take a day, turn off my phone and start driving. Once I had gotten myself lost I had to find my way back home without using my GPS. This day was scary. It was long. It was overwhelming and it was probably my most favorite day I had in my first year out here. It taught me to rely on myself. It taught me to be brave when I didn’t want to be. It taught me to be persistent and it taught me to be strong. I highly recommend doing this. The city won’t be as scary as it is this day. That’s a good thing.
7. Find a spot that is yours and no one else’s.
And by “yours and no one else’s” I don’t mean somewhere that’s never been discovered by another pair of human eyes before because that’s not going to happen. I mean find a spot that no one else in your circle knows about. This will be the spot you run away to when you need to recollect yourself and your thoughts, when you need to get away, when you need to celebrate, when you need to breathe. This spot will be special and it will keep you sane.
8. Find a group of genuine friends who know why you’ve moved out here and will support you, your career, and your decisions.
Surround yourself with people who are real, genuine and honest with you. Learn the difference between someone who is “nice” to you and someone who truly wishes to get to know you. This is important. These people will become your family. They will see you through some dark times and they will be with you through some amazing times. Find them. They’re waiting for you.
9. Don’t freak out when bad things seem to keep stacking on top of each other.
There’s something about LA where once you move here it decides to shit on you. I have no idea what it is but bad things will just start following you around whether you ask for it or not. Don’t be scared away by this. You will learn from each of these experiences. They will make you a stronger person and you will realize that you can handle more than you thought you could. Buy a bottle of wine, pull up your boot straps, and get yourself through it.
These are the biggest tips and tricks that I can think of to give you. Moving to any new place can be scary. Stay strong. Keep yourself grounded. Be patient. Los Angeles is an amazing place to live if you accept it for what it is – absolutely effin’ insane.
There is always something new to do, somewhere new to go, and a lifetime of adventures to take. Give it a chance. You might end up loving it.
Think I missed something? Comment below on your tips for moving to a new city!